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Linda Harvey

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Old Man and the Dog
3/21/2008 3:38:58 PM
The Old Man and the Dog
by Catherine Moore

"Watch out! You nearly broad sided that car!" My
father yelled at me.

"Can't you do anything right?"

Those words hurt worse than blows. I turned my head toward
the elderly man in the seat beside me, daring me to challenge him. A
lump rose in my throat as I averted my eyes. I wasn't prepared for
another battle.

"I saw the car, Dad. Please don't yell at me when I'm driving."
My voice was measured and steady, sounding far calmer than I really

Dad glared at me, then turned away and settled back. At home I left
Dad in front of the television and went outside to collect my thoughts.
Dark, heavy clouds hung in the air with a promise of rain.
The rumble of distant thunder seemed to echo my inner turmoil.

What could I do about him?

Dad had been a lumberjack in Washington and Oregon. He had enjoyed
being outdoors and had reveled in pitting his strength against the forces
of nature. He had entered grueling lumberjack competitions, and had
placed often. The shelves in his house were filled with trophies
that attested to his prowess.

The years marched on relentlessly. The first time he couldn't lift a
heavy log, he joked about it; but later that same day I saw him outside
alone, straining to lift it. He became irritable whenever anyone
teased him about his advancing age, or when he couldn't do something he had
done as a younger man.

Four days after his sixty-seventh birthday, he had a heart attack. An
ambulance sped him to the hospital while a paramedic administered CPR
to keep blood and oxygen flowing. At the hospital, Dad was rushed into
an operating room. He was lucky; he survived.

But something inside Dad died. His zest for life was gone. He
obstinately refused to follow doctor's orders. Suggestions and offers of help
were turned aside with sarcasm and insults. The number of visitors
thinned, then finally stopped altogether. Dad was left alone.

My husband, Dick, and I asked Dad to come live with us on our small
farm. We hoped the fresh air and rustic atmosphere would help him adjust.
Within a week after he moved in, I regretted the invitation.

It seemed nothing was satisfactory. He criticized everything I did. I
became frustrated and moody. Soon I was taking my pent-up anger out on
Dick. We began to bicker and argue. Alarmed, Dick sought out our
pastor and explained the situation. The clergyman set up weekly
counseling appointments for us. At the close of each session he
prayed, asking God to soothe Dad's troubled mind. But the months wore on and
God was silent. Something had to be done and it was up to me to do

The next day I sat down with the phone book and methodically called
each of the mental health clinics listed in the Yellow Pages. I explained
my problem to each of the sympathetic voices that answered.
In vain. Just when I was giving up hope, one of the voices suddenly
exclaimed, "I just read something that might help you! Let me go get the
article." I listened as she read.

The article described a remarkable study done at a nursing home. All
of the patients were under treatment for chronic depression. Yet their
attitudes had improved dramatically when they were given responsibility
for a dog.

I drove to the animal shelter that afternoon. After I filled out a
questionnaire, a uniformed officer led me to the kennels. The odor of
disinfectant stung my nostrils as I moved down the row of pens. Each
contained five to seven dogs. Long-haired dogs, curly-haired dogs,
black dogs, spotted dogs all jumped up, trying to reach me. I studied
each one but rejected one after the other for various reasons too big,
too small, too much hair. As I neared the last pen a dog in the
shadows of the far corner struggled to his feet, walked to the front of the
run and sat down. It was a pointer, one of the dog world's
aristocrats. But this was a caricature of the breed. Years had etched
his face and muzzle with shades of gray. His hipbones jutted out in
lopsided triangles. But it was his eyes that caught and held my
attention. Calm and clear, they beheld me unwaveringly.

I pointed to the dog. "Can you tell me about him?" The
officer looked, then shook his head in puzzlement.

"He's a funny one. Appeared out of nowhere and sat in front of the
gate. We brought him in, figuring someone would be right down to claim
him. That was two weeks ago and we've heard nothing. His time is up
tomorrow." He gestured helplessly.

As the words sank in I turned to the man in horror. "You mean you're
going to kill him?"

"Ma'am," he said gently, "that's our policy. We don't
have room for every unclaimed dog."

I looked at the pointer again. The calm brown eyes awaited my
decision. "I'll take him," I said.

I drove home with the dog on the front seat beside me. When I reached
the house I honked the horn twice. I was helping my prize out of the
car when Dad shuffled onto the front porch.

"Ta-da! Look what I got for you, Dad!" I said excitedly.

Dad looked, then wrinkled his face in disgust. "If I had wanted a dog
I would have gotten one. And I would have picked out a better specimen
than that bag of bones. Keep it! I don't want it" Dad waved his arm
scornfully and turned back toward the house.

Anger rose inside me. It squeezed together my throat muscles and
pounded into my temples.

"You'd better get used to him, Dad. He's staying!" Dad
ignored me. "Did you hear me, Dad?" I screamed. At those
words Dad whirled angrily, his hands clenched at his sides, his eyes
narrowed and blazing with hate.

We stood glaring at each other like duelists, when suddenly the pointer
pulled free from my grasp. He wobbled toward my dad and sat down in
front of him. Then slowly, carefully, he raised his paw.

Dad's lower jaw trembled as he stared at the uplifted paw Confusion
replaced the anger in his eyes. The pointer waited patiently. Then Dad
was on his knees hugging the animal.

It was the beginning of a warm and intimate friendship. Dad named the
pointer Cheyenne. Together he and Cheyenne explored the community.
They spent long hours walking down dusty lanes. They spent reflective
moments on the banks of streams, angling for tasty trout. They even
started to attend Sunday services together, Dad sitting in a pew and
Cheyenne lying quietly at his feet.

Dad and Cheyenne were inseparable throughout the next three years.
Dad's bitterness faded, and he and Cheyenne made many friends. Then late
one night I was startled to feel Cheyenne's cold nose burrowing through
our bed covers. He had never before come into our bedroom at
night. I woke Dick, put on my robe and ran into my father's room. Dad
lay in his bed, his face serene. But his spirit had left quietly
sometime during the night.

Two days later my shock and grief deepened when I discovered Cheyenne
lying dead beside Dad's bed. I wrapped his still form in the rag rug he
had slept on. As Dick and I buried him near a favorite fishing hole,
I silently thanked the dog for the help he had given me in
restoring Dad's peace of mind.

The morning of Dad's funeral dawned overcast and dreary. This day
looks like the way I feel, I thought, as I walked down the aisle to the
pews reserved for family. I was surprised to see the many friends Dad and
Cheyenne had made filling the church. The pastor began his eulogy. It
was a tribute to both Dad and the dog who had changed his
life. And then the pastor turned to Hebrews 13:2. "Be not
forgetful to entertain strangers."

"I've often thanked God for sending that angel," he

For me, the past dropped into place, completing a puzzle that I had not
seen before: the sympathetic voice that had just read the right

Cheyenne's unexpected appearance at the animal shelter ... his calm
acceptance and complete devotion to my father ... and the proximity of
their deaths. And suddenly I understood. I knew that God had answered my
prayers after all.

Life is too short for drama & petty things, so
laugh hard,

love truly and forgive quickly.

Live While You Are Alive.

Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity.

Forgive now those who made you cry. You might not get a second time.

As always, I would love to hear from you.
Steven Suchar

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Re: Old Man and the Dog
3/21/2008 10:52:26 PM
"Thank You Linda For Your Personal Share"

Best graphics for your profile!
Nick Sym

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Re: Old Man and the Dog
3/22/2008 1:02:56 AM
Breast Cancer Awareness On My Site! Free exposure that works
Linda Harvey

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Re: Old Man and the Dog
3/31/2008 11:51:51 AM
When you are worried -- I will tell you horrible stories 
about how much Worse it could be
until you quit whining.

When you are confused -- I will use little words.
Linda Harvey

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Re: Old Man and the Dog
3/31/2008 12:03:47 PM
When you are blue -- I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you. 

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